On November 29th, 2019, at 6 pm AEST, Robert Lockhart, a true Pioneer of the fruitarian diet and lifestyle and a valued returning presenter at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, passed away at the age of 75.
Robert lived an incredibly active, vibrant and full life till the very end. Traveling with his wife Rheana, planting fruit trees, developing his little piece of paradise in the Philippines, hiking, swimming, sprinting, walking on his hands as a morning routine, free climbing coconut trees, promoting the fruitarian lifestyle, and working in his chiropractic clinic. He lived with passion and an open mind. Always ready to expand his horizons, learn new things, master new skills, and travel to new locations. Always generous with his time and knowledge to those seeking his counsel. He was an inspiration, a role model, a hero to many. He was a teacher and a friend. We were not ready to lose him so soon. We believe that he would want us to learn from his passing just as we have been continuously learning from him when he was living.
Robert’s blood test done in 2015 showed that his kidneys were functioning at about 65% of their capacity. The scan also showed that his kidneys were a smaller size than normal. About six weeks prior to the tragic sequence of events leading to his passing, in mid-October 2019, Robert noticed some phlegm in his throat and corresponding shortness of breath when doing his usual sprinting workouts with Rheana. He thought it was a simple mucus elimination and didn’t pay much attention to it until, when it didn’t clear up after about two weeks, he decided to speed things along by undertaking a three-day dry fast. During the dry fast, he kept up his usual routine working in his clinic despite very hot and dry weather. The dry fast did not resolve the phlegm issue, which gradually brought on coughing. After the fast, his breathing difficulties continued and reached the point where he started having trouble sleeping at night. Although he broke the fast, he didn’t eat much over the next two weeks due to the general feeling of weakness and not being quite well. He kept saying that he just needed to rest and take it easy.
Finally, about two weeks after the dry fast, Robert’s wife Rheana and his daughters Meah Robertson and Tulani Lockhart convinced him to go to the hospital and seek medical assistance. The testing showed extremely elevated levels of potassium in the bloodstream, indicating that Robert’s kidneys were failing. The doctors in the hospital believe that Robert’s dry fasting regimen has done significant damage to his kidneys over the years.
The normal potassium level in the blood is 3.5-5.0 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Potassium levels between 5.1 mEq/L and 6.0 mEq/L reflect mild hyperkalemia (a medical term for abnormally elevated levels of potassium). Potassium levels of 6.1 mEq/L to 7.0 mEq/L are moderate hyperkalemia, and levels above 7.0 mEq/L are severe hyperkalemia. Robert’s potassium was at 6.8 mEq/L.
Normal blood levels of potassium are critical for maintaining normal heart electrical rhythm. Moderate hyperkalemia can produce EKG changes (EKG is a reading of the electrical activity of the heart muscles), and severe hyperkalemia can cause suppression of the electrical activity of the heart and can cause the heart to stop beating. The doctors attributed the difficulty of breathing to pneumonia, which caused an accumulation of water in the lungs.
After the diagnosis, Robert stayed in the hospital for the next seven days and seemed to be getting better at first, with his urine getting clearer after a few days, but the stress of being in the hospital contributed to him going down again. About five days into his stay, he had an episode of abnormally fast heart rate of 140 per minute in a resting state. The doctor prescribed a medication to stimulate the heart into functioning properly as it was getting weaker. Rheana was bringing fresh fruit and greens to him, but he had to be careful with his choice of fruit due to the elevated potassium issue due to his failing kidneys and to limit himself to only small quantities of some of his favorite fruit.
On Saturday night, November 23rd, 2 days after the abnormally fast heartbeat episode, Robert had a cardiac arrest, twice within a 10 minutes period. Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart stops, as a result of a blocked artery, and causes a section of the heart muscle to begin to die; whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating as a whole. Robert was revived and taken to ICU (intensive care unit) where he stayed for the next 5 days. The heart scan showed that his heart was enlarged due to the stress of having to work extra hard, struggling to pump the blood in the body with failing kidneys.
While in ICU, additional testing revealed Melioidosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Burkholderia Pseudomallei found in contaminated water and soil and spread to humans and animals through direct contact. This bacterial infection is what caused Robert’s phlegm issues, pneumonia and breathing difficulties. Robert was administered a strong dose of intravenous antibiotics to deal with the bacteria. Robert has never had antibiotics in his entire life, and this was extremely stressful on his body, especially since his failing kidneys were in no position to deal with eliminating additional toxins.
On Friday, November 29th, the doctors said that although a scan of Robert’s brain showed no major damage, his internal organs were failing. He developed leaky heart valves, which measured an ejection fraction of 15-20% at most, and that’s under medical stimulation. Five days after the cardiac arrest, his enlarged heart was not showing any signs of healing. Out of respect for Robert’s wishes, Rheana, Tulani, Meah, and the doctors made a joint decision to let him go peacefully without being plugged into any machines or being stimulated by medication. When they disconnected the breathing support tubes, Robert was still breathing on his own, and his body visibly relaxed. It seemed that he experienced a relief. They let him decide on his own in peace. At approximately 6 pm that day, Robert’s heart stopped beating once again.
Robert was a true Pioneer of the fruitarian diet. He started on this path some 40 years ago when there was no internet and no movement. He had no roadmap. He had to create a roadmap. Like many of us, he experienced such an incredible improvement in his well-being, that he did not know where was the limit. Was there a limit? How healthy can we be? Was there a place for medical intervention? With few people around with as much experience on this lifestyle as he had, Robert had to answer most of his questions for himself. He pushed ahead and lived the most vibrant and incredible life he could. His passion for life and commitment to live to the fullest, to experience every bit of joy possible, to walk the path he believed in with vigor and exhilaration is what inspires us the most.
To learn more about the life and beliefs of Dr. Robert Lockhart, we invite you to watch this insightful video interview full of precious gems of wisdom, recorded only several months prior to Robert’s death: